Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lib Dems opinions revolving

Liberal Democrats believe that European co-operation is the best way for Britain to be strong, safe and influential in the future. We will ensure that Britain maximises its influence through a strong and positive commitment... Work through the European Union for stricter international regulation of financial services and banking... Work with other countries... including bringing forward urgent proposals for a financial transaction tax 

Liberal Democrat manifesto, May 2010

What Clegg said on Friday morning, in the wake of Cameron's disastrous departure from the negotiating table: 

"The demands Britain made for safeguards, on which the coalition government was united, were modest and reasonable. They were safeguards for the single market, not just the UK. There were no demands of repatriation of powers from the EU to Britain and no demands for a unilateral carve-out of UK financial services. What we sought to ensure was to maintain a level playing field in financial services and the single market as a whole. This would have retained the UK's ability to take tougher, not looser, regulatory action to sort out our banking system."
Aside from the utter drivel that this government would take tougher action than that likely to come out of the EU, that's Clegg supporting the PM and opening his mouth before he had the chance to understand the full implication of the utter cock-up that Cameron's decision will prove to be for the future of the British economy. William Hague - who was utterly sideswiped on the Today programme on Friday morning as he was apparently completely unbriefed on the increased role for the IMF - has said that Clegg was fully briefed and in full agreement with policy.
Hague insisted the coalition was on board with the deal as he confirmed that the Liberal deputy prime minister and the chancellor, George Osborne, had been kept abreast of developments by Cameron. He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that Clegg "signed up" to what had happened.  

Taking us away from the negotiations is ludicrous. The 'Tobin' financial transaction tax that apparently scared the City could only be brought in by unanimity - it isn't subject to qualified majority voting - so Cameron could have retained a genuine veto over that issue. Rather than do so and demonstrate a commitment to working as part of a union with which our future is inextricably connected, Cameron has gone for the short term gain of calming his party and feeding the instant gratification demanded by the City donors. He could have stayed involved and kept Britain in the conference room - a tenet of British policy over Europe for decades under all governments, even under Thatcher - but he chose not to. 
Unsurprisingly, the Liberal Democrats have been in quiet and irrelevant revolt over the past day or so and Clegg is now apparently manufacturing anger to order
Just 24 hours after appearing to back Cameron, sources close to Clegg made clear that the deputy prime minister believed the PM had been guilty of serious negotiating failures that risked damaging the national interest, British jobs and economic growth.
Clegg's fury puts the coalition under the most severe strain since its formation 19 months ago, with Europe now seen by some MPs as a potential "deal breaker".
One source said Clegg "couldn't believe it" when he was woken at 4am in his flat in Sheffield to be told that talks on how to save the euro at the Brussels summit had "spectacularly unravelled".
Accusing Cameron of failing to play the diplomatic game effectively, the source added: "He could not believe that Cameron hadn't tried to play for more time. A menu of choices wasn't deployed as a negotiating tool but instead was presented as a take it or leave it ultimatum. That is not how he [Clegg] would have played Britain's hand."
Publicly supporting the PM and then openly briefing against him within 24 hours isn't good form. But then neither is publicly burning through all the totemic policies of the Liberal Democrats. Tuition fees were only the beginning. 
Still, you can always rely on John Hemming to support his political friends
I think Cameron was right to use the veto on changes to the treaties. It is entirely right that the 17 Eurozone countries resolve how to get greater fiscal unity which is essential for the success of the Euro and consequential success of the UK. However, that does not mean that we have to sign up to that. We should not try to stand in their way and prevent them resolving their difficulties. However, it is not surprising that unanimity amongst the 27 EU states is difficult to achieve.

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